With the success of erotic books like Fifty Shades of Grey, kink and sex positivity has moved up in public awareness. As more people are starting to discover kink and their own proclivities, we need to be aware of problematic issues within the community so they don't continue to be perpetuated by new members.
Kink has often been umbrella-ed into the sex positive movement. A lot of sex positive people are, at least, kink-friendly if not kinksters themselves. The sex positivity movement was what actually got me interested in kink in the first place. It reassured me of the importance of consent, safety, and comfort within the scene.
As a budding kinkster I started to testing the waters by joining forums and online communities to get to know the community — its members, overall climate, and attitudes — better. Apart from the workshops and blogs I followed, I also joined a local kink group on Facebook and joined the infamous Fetlife.
That's when I got a reality check.
My Fetlife profile was barely created before I found my inbox full of messages from strange men asking me to submit to them. It was overwhelming and honestly, scary. I was on Fetlife for mere days before I logged off and decided it just wasn't for me. Then, after being offline and out of the kink community for a while I was invited to a BDSM community Facebook group. There were prominent voices from the sex positive community as members and the admins seemed like amazing people. It had to be safer than Fetlife, right? Almost.
The admins of the group require that any explicit photos or GIF's be posted in such a way that you have to click through them to see the image. The reason for this was that — considering it was a group of over a thousand members — there were going to be people with triggers of all kinds viewing posts within the ground and no one should feel triggered unduly. This was actually the biggest draw to this group for me. The admins were open, inclusive, and mindful of all kinds of struggles.
Within days of joining, I saw someone had left an angry post wailing because an admin took one of their posts down without contacting them. Through the comment thread, I was able to gather that the post in question was not following the photo protocols.
Though the comment thread was riddled with comments decrying the admins for being "too sensitive" and that some people "have to ruin the fun for everyone," I decided to explain the reasoning behind the rule. I explained that some members of the Facebook group may have been through trauma and that the post might have been upsetting to some people, so the original poster just needed to follow the rules.
His reply: "No thanks, J." I was appalled.
When I had thought this person was just uninformed, I was just a little irked but understanding. Now I was angry. I was pissed. To this person, being inconvenienced for the comfort and safety of a thousand other people was an attack on them. Their explanation was that the Facebook group is a sexual community so just being in the group is a good enough trigger warning.
Translation: Because you're kinky, you're not allowed to choose what you're exposed to. You're not allowed to decide what you are safe and comfortable with.
Red flags popped up so fast all I could see was red. That was blatant disregard for consent and boundaries. Who would want to play with a person like that? If a couple extra clicks are too much work to show respect for online boundaries, what about when it might mean putting your sexual pleasure aside to make me feel safe when we're playing?
What was worse is that I recently found out this same person was a prominent member in the community. I have already seen vocal members of the feminist and sex positive community asking to play with this person.
To me being sex positive means to be safe, respectful, and consensual. Consent is never optional, online or in real life. How can you be sex positive if the safety and comfort of others is less important to you than your own amusement?
After that, I saw members complaining of other members sending unsolicited sexual pictures and messages. Some (male) members of the group seemed shocked that anyone would even do that, and that it couldn't have been anyone from their community.
It does happen. It happens so much that members have left the group. Though there are a ton of great, respectful people in the community, not everyone is that way. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. This is important to remember so we know when we should question someone's behavior and be careful who we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with. We shouldn't allow harmful entitled behavior from anyone in our lives.
I want everyone everywhere to hear this: Your pleasure does not come before someone else's safety. Just because you identify as kinky does not mean you consent to someone else's fetishes. Just because it's a community centered around kink doesn't mean everyone has the same limits, boundaries, and desires. Stick with your gut. If you think someone's behavior is problematic or risky, you do not have to give them the benefit of the doubt. You do not have to risk your safety.